*Lots of games to cover and moving faster than editors can keep up with, so forgive any typos, etc. 2,000+ word articles on preseason games ain’t easy. Going for quantity over quality to get the news out ASAP.
Wow. I’m going to remember this preseason game for a long time. I can tell my grandkids that I saw Mitchell Trubisky and Kyle Sloter battle for the first time as rookies, back when the media hated one of them and didn’t know the other (aside from some of them using my in-depth Sloter article from months ago as research for their human interest 3-4 paragraph summary…and not mentioning the source).
My grandkids will likely ask if either of those guys play e-sports, and they’ll get their jet packs on and zoom away with their personal robots. But that’s beside the point.
Seriously, this game throws a real wrinkle into the plans of both of these organizations. It wasn’t supposed to work like this, but here we are – Mitchell Trubisky is so obviously better than Mike Glennon, and I say that as a Glennon defender…and Kyle Sloter is so obviously GOING to be better than Trevor Siemian, and already is better than Paxton Lynch that it creates a problem for both team’s GMs and head coaches. You’d think they’d see this as a great thing, and on a level they do…but on another level they are losing sleep right now.
Let’s break this down one team at a time…
— You might think, “Oh, it’s the preseason. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves!” If you don’t think that the media will do it for you. The same group that 24 hours earlier was orgasmic over Deshaun Watson overthrowing receivers and floundering in the red zone…they are now cautioning to not get too excited with Trubisky. Rotoworld’s note on Trubisky’s performance was basically an insult in the form of a positive football note – mentioning “…the team spoon-fed him short throws to get his confidence up,” and later added “Despite it being a preseason game against the Broncos second- and third-stringers, this was incredibly encouraging…”
If you fear that this performance will ignite Trubisky’s rookie draft ADP…don’t. The media is your friend here –they’ll downplay Trubisky and trumpet Deshaun. It’s comical, but typical.
Trubisky wasn’t incredibly encouraging, nor spoon-fed anything. I’ve watched almost every snap of every preseason game (sometimes multiple watches of the same game) for 6+ years. I know ‘it’ when I see ‘it’. Trubisky is the best quarterback on the Bears roster…not long-term, but right now. He’s the most talented QB they have in every aspect. Chuck experience out the window…ask Dak Prescott how important ‘experience’ is. ‘Experience’ is a fallacy assigned to quarterbacks who suck but who the media loves and wants to gloss over (see: Paxton Lynch, from this game…see: Blake Bortles and a million others). Mike Glennon is a decent QB talent, but he can’t hold Trubisky’s jock in talent terms.
Mike Glennon (2-8 for 20 yards, 0 TD/1 INT) is a quarterback for a bygone era. He doesn’t work in most NFL offenses. If you give Glennon time to set up in the pocket and make medium-deep decisions he’ll be fine. He has a good eye and touch downfield. Most offenses thrive on quick-hitters, quick decisions, and short-snap throws…none of which are Glennon. Glennon would have been pretty solid in the 1970s and 1980s. Current day, he’s too slow to set up and release downfield. He’s not a check down guy, he’s always looking downfield.
I was watching this game and observing Glennon flounder — and I thought the Bears’ offense was the worst unit I had watched (to that point) of this big preseason night. I wondered how much of it was the Denver defense and how much was Glennon. It was a little of both. There was no energy or efficiency whatsoever with Glennon. He looks boring on the field. He looks and sounds dull with his helmet off. The optics are terrible and the offense took on his blandness.
After Glennon flopped, Mark Sanchez (1-4 for 10 yards) came in…and…I’m not wasting any time on talking about it.
Denver sat on a 10-0 lead (scoring on a pick-six) while the Bears could barely manage a yard of offense. With under two minutes left, the Bears inserted Trubisky. The reaction of the players to his insertion was attention-getting. Pats on the back from the first-team on the sidelines as he got ready. A noticeable change in mood by the offensive players and fans. He didn’t disappoint. Trubisky marched the team right down the field with his incredibly precise arm, quick release, and ‘plus’ mobility. He’s a superstar in-waiting (and the wait may be over). He ended the night with 1 TD pass. He had another TD pass judged just shy of the goal line and had another TD pass dropped. Trubisky had 7 incompletions…and probably 3-4-5 of them drops/catchable passes. Trubisky’s ability to put the ball on the receiver in stride from all arm angles – you can’t teach it.
Pete Carroll, who I slammed yesterday, has to be given credit for something…a lot of credit. When they drafted Russell Wilson and had no expectations of him going into rookie training camp, they had also paid huge for Matt Flynn in free agency (again, Russell Wilson saved everyone’s coaching job in Seattle). Flynn was to be the season starter because he had a good game once. Russell Wilson was so obviously special, like Dak Prescott, that Carroll took the bold step of benching the expensive free agent and giving the job to Wilson opening day…basically, announcing the future was now. That critical decision, against the grain and while the media lambasted him for it initially — it made Carroll millions, got him a Super Bowl title, and eternal coaching adulation.
Will the Bears have the balls to do the same?
I think they might. Trubisky is so obviously better than Glennon and better than half the current starter in the NFL already, that a change should be made. Yesterday, I would have said a 5% chance Trubisky starts opening day and would have thought he would by Week 10 or so into the regular season. I’ll say it’s 50-50 Trubisky starts Week 1, now, and if not – by Week 4-5 he’s taking over. He’s too good to keep on the bench for Glennon…who is not the future and is basically on a one-year deal. After this year the Bears can ditch Glennon for just $4M pain.
If Trubisky takes over Week 1 — don’t say it was stupid that the Bears spent all the money on Glennon – they couldn’t have known they’d get Trubisky in the draft. Quarterback is where you should take chances…many, and hope one pays off.
Also, the Browns’ Moneyball group should be fired. Unless Myles Garrett is Lawrence Taylor…the 2017 NFL Draft will be known as the time the Browns passed on hometown boy Mitchell Trubisky and rather traded for and started Brock Osweiler…and thought DeShone Kizer was their future.
May I also add, will anyone be firing all the beat writers who’ve told you how bad Trubisky looks in camp and how he isn’t ready for primetime? Ummm…nope. All forgotten…and their next one sentence football take will make you react to it. The biggest sucker’s bet in football…what the beat writers see at camp.
And then there is the even more complicated Broncos situation…
— I’m not just worked up about some rookie having a good preseason game or trying to be super-sarcastic/funny by saying Kyle Sloter (5-6 for 94 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) is the best QB on the Broncos right now…I scouted and researched Sloter in-depth, and got to personally interview him soon after. He was among our top 50 prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft…he went undrafted. I’m not the dummy in this equation – the football establishment is.
Is Sloter ready to start for Denver? Maybe. It’s a big leap. I’d probably wait for Siemian to flame out and then jump onboard the Sloter train. But I’m not sure what John Elway is going to do up and down the QB depth chart. This 2017 QB situation will tell you a lot about Elway the executive. It will start with whether they even roster Sloter, which they should, or will they try to sneak Sloter onto the practice squad and keep Chad Kelly. Drafting Chad Kelly instead of Kyle Sloter was the one of the dumbest, most NFL thing anyone could do – pick a player to do a favor for an ex-player (Chad is related to Jim Kelly), and put your entire franchise at risk of missing Sloter; Denver was on Sloter hot all pre-Draft. With that decision-making past — there is no guarantee Denver does the right thing here. Sloter will probably make the decision for them each week of the preseason.
Once Sloter is rostered, there’s more Susan Lucci drama…in the form of what to do with Paxton Lynch. When does Elway ‘fold’ on Lynch? Lynch is not better than Siemian and he’s not better than Sloter. How long will Denver believe they can train him into something? If you think ‘not enough time yet’ for Denver to ‘know’ about Lynch – hey, big boy business demands huge, rapid decision be made. You can drag your feet for fear of ridicule…or you just cut your losses and ride your winners.
I really don’t know what Elway will do. I suspect he’ll hold all three QBs (Siemian-Lynch-Sloter…and IR Kelly), and give Lynch one too many chances before throwing in the towel.
Back to Sloter…
Trevor Siemian (6-7 for 51 yards) led no scoring drives in his quarter of play, and Paxton Lynch (6-9 for 42 yards) looked like rattled Paxton Lynch from 2016, leading no scoring drives in about two quarters of play. All the Denver scoring came with Sloter in the 4th quarter.
The Sloter TD pass was a thing of beauty. Sloter was pretty calm and collected right off the bat, moving the team on his first series but getting stuck midfield leading to a 3rd and 17 at the Bears’ 47-yard line. What would the rookie do? The Bears dropped five DBs back. Sloter ripped off a 47-yard TD pass…to a wide-open Isaiah McKenzie (1-41-1/1). Some would say, “Well, he was wide open. What do you expect?” If you get a chance, watch the slow-mo replay of the throw with the camera facing Sloter. Kyle tilts his body to the left and has his head slightly left but McKenzie is racing down the middle and is in his peripheral. Sloter doesn’t spaz out at the sight of open McKenzie. He holds his body slightly left and then winds up, still looking left but launches the ball to his right/down the middle while still tilted left. The DBs are going left with Sloter’s body language. It was like a great look-away pass by a point guard in basketball. You can’t teach that. Most QBs don’t have it. I watched Sloter do it all the time at Northern Colorado. I’m not shocked.
Usually, third-string QBs flounder in the throw away/4th-quarter preseason opportunities…too bad a blocking…too conservative a play calling…to flimsy a group of receivers to count on. With Trubisky stealing the show – Sloter stole it back and then defeated him.
There were other non-quarterbacks in this game as well, believe it or not…
— Another (mild) ‘loser’ on this evening…oddly…Jordan Howard’s (3-4-0) fantasy upside. I’m a big fan and was ahead of that curve last year. But I sense there is an issue with Howard in the passing game. He’s not your first choice to throw to. It’s not his game…which opens the door to others getting good touches.
When the Bears drafted Tarik Cohen (7-39-0), I thought it would be to be their ‘Tyreek Hill‘ more than ‘their Darren Sproles‘. In this game, we saw more Cohen as ‘their change of pace RB‘. It’s possible that the Bears have no radical plans/playbook for multi-dimensional Cohen, but you can also tell they like him a lot. Cohen was in the game quickly and taking carries as a tailback and looked good. They could be hiding the good stuff planned for Cohen, but the realist in me says they are just going to use the same tired playbook and use Cohen as ‘typical’ instead of ‘radical’. I’m not making that ‘call’ yet, but what I saw – get ready for a few more Cohen carries each game taken away from Howard than you would have expected.
Cohen had a spark in his step and did not look fazed by the NFL lights.
— Rookie RB De’Angelo Henderson (7-54-1, 1-1-1/1) popped a game winning TD run – a 41-yard jolt up the middle. Outside of that carry – 6 carries for 13 yards for Henderson. I did not see anything ‘wow’ with Henderson in his work. He’s solid enough.
— Speaking of ‘not wow’ rookies – Carlos Henderson (1-7-0/1) looked nervous, bobbled kick returns and didn’t show any flash. That’s how I scouted him out of La. Tech…and he didn’t show differently in this game.
— Surprisingly, Cody Latimer (7-54-0/7) came back to life. Not only did he have numbers but he was making some nice, tough catches over the middle. I saw the old Latimer people were excited about coming out of Indiana. Not sure if it means anything at this stage, but the Latimer I saw last night has a roster spot over Carlos Henderson.
— Adam Shaheen (1-3-0/2) did not shine in his debut…he looked like a rookie. I’m beginning to think my scouting inclination is more true here – Shaheen is excellent in shorts and shells/7-on-7 work, but put the pads on in live action and everything goes a lot slower. He looked clunky to me studying him before the draft…then very fluid in camp tape, but back to awkward/clunky in this game debut. I’m open to him being better, but I’m also open to the fact that he’s more hot air than not.
— A quick slew of Bears’ WR observations…
Kendall Wright (1-14-0/2) started with Meredith-White, FYI.
Mike Glennon never even looked in Kevin White’s direction. It’s like Kevin White isn’t even on the team.
Victor Cruz (3-11-1/6) is getting more of a long-shot-to-make-the-roster treatment than he is a red carpet. He worked late into the game and destroyed the Bears comeback with a drop of a short, smart throw from Trubisky that might have gone for 10-20+ yards to start the two-minute drill at the end of the game. Cruz’s drop was a dagger…to the team and to his NFL prospects, I have a feeling.
Rookie UDFA Tanner Gentry (1-13-0/2) looked as expected – poor man’s Adam Thielen. And someone who is an NFL WR. He’s probably headed to the practice squad.
— Bears IDP Nick Kwiatkoski (6 tackles) played most of this game as a starting ILB. He looked OK.
— Speaking of the Bears defense – they carried the team until Trubisky came in and breathed life…and until Kyle Sloter bent them over his knee. This Bears defense is carrying over from 2016 – energetic and improving. Trubisky + this defense to start 2017 might get the Bears 6-7 maybe 8 wins.
The Broncos starting defense looked like they haven’t missed a beat – menacing from the jump.
— Bears tight end talk…
Zach Miller (0-0-0/2) started and dropped a pass. He is on borrowed time before getting cut or traded due to economics, and the fact that the Bears have plenty o other options.
Dion Sims (1-6-0/1) re-reminded me he is one of the slowest TEs in the NFL. He might be a TD factor, but not a yardage one for fantasy.
Daniel Brown (1-4-0/3) was buried with the 2nd- and 3rd-team guys…and had a TD catch on a diving play, but didn’t make the grab.
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